A 1,000-pound bull moose had to be tranquilized last week to untangle its antlers from a rope hanging from a backyard zipline south of Breckenridge.
Residents of the home had placed a salt rock out to attract wildlife, said Elissa Slezak, district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Summit County.
“It’s illegal and irresponsible,” she said.
The incident marks one of many increasing conflicts between people and the state's approximately 2,500 moose, CPW officials say.
“Over the past few months, myself and my fellow officer in Summit County have been getting moose calls almost daily,” said Slezak.
While the agency doesn’t keep statistics on moose incident reports, Slezak said she has seen the number of conflicts steadily increase over the past few years. Most of those calls are simply to report a moose in an area populated by people, but officers also hear multiple reports a month about a moose charging a person, she said.
And she said the ones she hears about likely are a fraction of the ones that occur.
Calls started to increase in the spring of 2017, she said, and she's since received reports of people trying to hand-feed and pet moose. She’s collected more than a dozen salt blocks this year. They not only attract wildlife illegally, but also change the animals’ natural behavior, attract them to residential areas and can transmit diseases.
One woman video-recorded herself feeding a moose through her car window, and then posted the video online.
“The public shaming was probably worse than the ticket we gave her,” Slezak said.
Nobody has reported any severe injuries due to an attack, she said, but the increase in human-moose reports prompted CPW staff to create a video.
Officials euthanize any moose that injures someone, even if irresponsible human behavior prompted the animal to defend itself, said Mike Porras, spokesman for CPW's northwest region.
“It becomes an automatic death sentence for that animal,” he said.
While moose are particularly active during fall mating and spring calf-rearing, human conflicts with the gangly creatures happen all year, Slezak said, including on cross-country ski trails.
Increased human and moose populations make run-ins more likely, Porras said. As their populations grow, moose are expanding their range to less remote areas and even occasionally wander through Front Range communities.
Some people involved in the conflicts are visitors from other states who might not have experience with wildlife, Slezak said. Others are long-time Colorado residents who do not abide by the rules or recent transplants to the area who might be unfamiliar with wildlife.
“They may live here and consider themselves local, but they aren’t educated about wildlife. We're not a zoo,” she said.
If you encounter a moose:
• Keep a safe distance from any moose. If it reacts to your presence, you're too close. Moose don't fear people and don’t always back down when someone invades their space.
• You can't outrun a moose, which can reach 35 mph.
• Back away and take cover if a moose acts aggressively. Before it attacks, a moose sometimes will lick its lips, pin its ears or raise the hair along its shoulder and spines. But sometimes they give no warning.
• Keep your dog leashed in moose habitat. Wolves are moose’s primary predator, and moose will chase dogs that get too close.
Original report by Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post.